OK, you’ve developed a great game, successfully translated and implemented text strings, and even came up with the marketing strategy for the target countries. Is it enough? Well, not really.
Translating the text into the local language is likely to boost downloads or sales and increase player satisfaction.
Localization goes beyond literal translation. It aims at adapting the content to the target language and ensuring that a similar meaning is achieved, so it resonates with that culture in the way it should.
How do you know that your game is striking the right chord in target markets?
That’s where Localization Quality Assurance (LQA) comes in. It involves LQA testers who attentively play your video game searching for any linguistic, functional or design issues. Testing professionals come equipped with in-depth knowledge on the platform, the audience, and the linguistic approach you’re targeting.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about Language (Linguistic) Quality Assurance.
Language QA is a part of LQA that tests the integration of translations in the game and their adaptation for the market with a different language culture.
Unlike quality assessment, that scores the accuracy of a completed translation based on a model with pre-determined values, quality assurance goes deeper to pre-empt and avoid errors, ensuring the quality at any stage of the localization process.
Linguistic game testing ensures that your game has the desired impact on players using different languages, and negates the risk of releasing something that might spoil the immersion you’re aiming for.
The impact that linguistic QA testing can have on your final product is profound. Games often feature fantastical storylines that rely on suspension of disbelief for true immersion. The wrong word, awkward phrasing or stiff language can erode the virtual world you’ve painstakingly created. Bad translations can even change the motivations of characters, destroy the mood of different environments and make your game a laughing stock.
Few people remember the game Zero Wing, but one of its biggest translation errors “All your base are belong to us” is still going strong as an internet meme.
Thankfully, those kinds of errors are easy to spot and fix, but what about ambiguous phrases where the context is lacking? Some translators will just have a guess and send it off, and without solid LQA that misunderstanding can carry over into the final release.
While bad translation breaks immersion, great translation can have the opposite effect. It feels wonderful when a game conveys a feeling or thought in exactly the right way, matching colloquial, day-to-day speech for players.
Great game localization should convey the storyline, the landscape, the characters, and everything else to players in the way that the designers originally intended. It boosts the credibility of characters and settings, making virtual worlds more believable.
Sometimes, translators need to play on words or even write poems if the game is based on rhymes (like Japanese Dragon Quest 11). Positive appraisals from game enthusiasts are definitely worth the effort.
Language QA testers help to capture the shortcomings in the translated product and improve the overall quality of the dialogue and interface text. When localization and LQA are done right, the player will feel as though the game was originally written in their language.
As budgets and development schedules are under constant pressure, some developers try to secure translations cheaply. They often make do partial assessments near the end of development.
What are the risks?
Text may be exported and sent off for proofreading without any context. Pressure to hit release dates, combined with late assessments, can mean that problems are overlooked or swept under the carpet.
Eventually, bad translations can leave players feeling ripped off and cause significant reputational damage for developers.
The best way is to bring in native professionals and have them review the localized strings in context. If they can’t play the game for some reason, they should at least be provided with background information, gameplay videos, relevant screenshots, and art.
The LQA professionals must stir together grammar, consistency, background, situation, character, terminology, and more to arrive at the right wording.
When there’s a need for technical language, localization QA testers should be experts in the field the game is set in, whether that’s medicine, construction, space, or sports. When context or supporting material is lacking, they should be prepared to research, investigate, study and probe for the best possible wording. That extra effort lends authenticity to the final game, making it infinitely more immersive.
Language QA experts should also have access to the dev team so that they can ask questions and gain a full understanding of what the game makers are trying to achieve. The earlier you integrate LQA into your game development, the better the final product will be.
A pitch-perfect localization process requires a bit of back and forth – it can’t be done in one testing cycle at the end of development.
It is a challenging task.
Language quality is intrinsically subjective, and translations can be judged in many ways. Plus, every sentence presents a multitude of possible translations.
Objective defects, such as spelling, grammar, omissions, and terminology are easy to define, but judging readability and consistency requires some real expertise. What really matters here is the impression that players form.
So, objective defects must carry more weight in the first analysis, but attention must also be given to subjective factors if the game is to reach the highest standard of quality
Given unlimited time and a generous budget every localization would be of the highest quality. But that’s not the world we live in.
You may be tempted to localize your game into as many different languages as possible, but with poor quality translations, it can be counterproductive.
On the contrary, quality really stands out and can turn early players into evangelists for your game. Releasing a game that boasts superb localization quality will generate a real buzz in the media and the gaming community.
So, complete your localizations and then polish them to a high standard.
At LocalizeDirect we believe every localization project we undertake is important. Elevating your game to the next level requires a full suite of linguistic expertise. A streamlined, seamlessly integrated LQA process can help you reach the pinnacle of linguistic excellence.
It’s vital to stir quality assurance into the localization from the beginning, to provide feedback for translators in real-time.
Translators should be gamers, native speaking linguists and, where applicable, subject matter experts too. They must always seek confirmation to find the true purpose and intention of any ambiguous phrase.
Top quality game localization is about nailing the exact meaning the writer intended. So, when supporting screenshots, videos, or gameplay footage are lacking, it’s important to obtain further guidance. Ultimately, it’s crucial that players experience your virtual world the way you envisioned.
The language is always a big part of the overall impression they form. While bad translation takes people out of the game, good translation goes unnoticed. Players don’t come away thinking “what a great translation”, they come away thinking “what a great game”.